As the 2016 presidential race enters the final stretch to the Nov. 4 election day, the clash between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is set to be brutal, while first-time voters simmer with frustration and disappointment regarding the choice of who to send to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
To put it mildly, both candidates suffer from systemic unpopularity both within their own parties and among the public at large. Trump faces a whopping 55 percent of voters who view him unfavorably, while Clinton suffers under a 56 percent unfavorability rating. Similar sentiment is shared among voters at Carmel High School.
“As someone who will be able to vote for the first time, I am not impressed with our current choices,” Carmel High senior Michael Doyle laments. “One is a serial liar and the other is a buffoon. They are incapable of judging each other’s policies and can only throw mud at each other.”
Clinton once held a lengthy double-digit lead over Trump, a Republican outsider. This lead has been eroded by the populist appeal of Trump, in conjunction with seemingly endless anti-American email revelations and rising concerns over Clinton’s health.
Yet, according to the Sept. 30 CNN poll of polls, Hillary Clinton continues to lead by a slim margin of 44 percent to 42 percent. This is a sharp decline from her significantly larger lead a few weeks ago.
However, Fivethirtyeight, a renowned polling site, calculates the current odds of victory at 64 percent for Clinton and 36 percent for Trump, as of Friday. As mirrored in the polls, the gap between the two has drastically decreased. Mid-August saw Clinton 80 percent more likely to win the White House. Clinton evidently received a bounce from her performance in the Sept. 26 presidential debate, gaining five points while Trump slipped farther behind.
Many Republicans have either hesitated or outright refused to endorse Trump, citing his poor temperament and seeming inability to filter what comes spurting out of his mouth.
CHS senior Bridger Coombs hails from a traditionally Republican-leaning family, yet he remains uncertain of which direction to cast his vote this year, listing issues regarding the character of the Republican nominee.
“Trump has repeatedly gone against my morals and beliefs, especially with regards to his immigration policy,” Coombs bemoans. “He has shown too much evidence towards being an irrational and unsteady leader.”
Trump isn’t the only one struggling to achieve party support. YouGov polling has shown that just over half of Bernie Sanders’ supporters solidly back Clinton.
Senior Dylan Temple heartily supported Sanders during the primary season, but has dramatically changed course as the general election got into full swing.
“I supported Bernie Sanders, because of his optimism and desire for change, but well, he burned out. By endorsing Clinton, I totally lost all faith in him,” Temple deplores. “I made a 180 with a lot of beliefs because of that actually. He destroyed my hopes entirely. He sold out to the mainstream.”
Temple is cautiously considering supporting Trump, although he recognizes the obvious flaws in his candidacy as well.
Although they are far-fetched, other options do exist. Former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is running as the head of the Libertarian Party ticket, and Dr. Jill Stein is leading the charge for the Green Party.
Senior Matt Luch refuses to cast his vote for Clinton and balks at the idea of throwing his support behind Trump.
“I will probably vote for Gary Johnson,” Luch says. “Trump can be incredibly hot-headed, and Clinton is the worst of the worst. Johnson is a viable option for anyone who values personal and economic freedom.”
Despite an apparent desire for an escape from the disastrous candidacies of Trump and Clinton, third-party nominees do not seem to have the strength to gain national traction. Johnston is pulling a meager eight percent of the vote while Stein languishes with just two percent.
Senior Katy Anderson wishes that the election design would be more favorable towards third-party candidates.
“If a third-party candidate were to rise to prominence, I would gladly support them,” Anderson says. “But the way I see this election, I don’t want my vote to go to waste. So I will have to vote for Clinton.”
Not all voters have their feet set in stone. Seniors Mikey Fletcher, Doyle and Coombs have yet to make up their minds for sure.
“I am still looking over both candidates and seeing how it will play out,” Coombs lays out. “In particular, I am looking for maturity in the presidential debates. I have seen a lot of immaturity on the campaign trail and will be looking for maturity and well thought-out decision making in the debate process.”